Being pain and disease-free is simply an accumulation of tiny daily habits, done consistently, over days, months and years.
Yes, it really is that “easy.”
Clearly living them is a lot harder – but at the base level, we all want to lose weight, stop those aches and pains (or severe pain), heal conditions like IBS or diabetes, and just feel a lot better throughout the day.
But what are those tiny habits we should be cultivating every day?
In other words, if your current health is so de-railed that you have no idea what tiny habits you should be creating, where should you start?
#1 Improve Your Social Sphere
“Talk to someone? What? Is Alex losing his mind?”
Believe it or not, in the Blue zones research, they studied and analyzed the top characteristics linked to longevity, and guess what was in the top 2 out of 5?
Social ties and family. Two of the strongest predictors of your health, happiness, longevity, and well-being.
This is the crazy part: in studies done on regular people as well as the elderly, being socially isolated is linked to an early death as much as smoking and much more than that of high blood pressure (study).
Yeah, you read that right: not having a good social circle or family life is almost as deadly as smoking cigarettes.
Your 20 minute habit:
Pick one close friend or family member, and call them. Take someone you don’t know that well out for coffee or drinks. Pick up a new hobby where you can meet like-minded people. Your family and extended family (despite what you might think of your mother in law!) are non-negotiable for your health.
#2 Shut down (Everything)
Is it just me, or does just about everyone seem to be going nuts?
People rush hurriedly from their bed, to the bathroom in the morning. Then to work. Then through work. Then home from work. Then through their meal, while they’re using the TV, their phone, and the computer – all at once.
And all the while, people complain that life is “passing them by” or they can’t quite get a grip on reality.
Well, this constant rushing from one thing to another in life has very clear negative health consequences.
Studies done on multi-tasking have shown repeatedly that it leads to more stress, less life satisfaction, and a phenomenon known as “my brain feels like it’s going to explode.”
Now the solution is simple: don’t do it. Okay, I lied – not that simple.
I could tell you to meditate, but chances are you aren’t going to do it.
So here’s what I want you to do instead – you don’t need to “read” a study proving anything about meditation. Just sit right now for 5 minutes. Doesn’t it feel good, not going insane?
Have no goal, no task to do, no place to be, no watch on your arm. Just hang out.
Your 20 minute habit: Find a nice spot this afternoon, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and just do nothing. Bonus points: sit in a cafe, and just observe. No books allowed. No phone. No computer. No stimulation. Just enjoy that drink and enjoy life “doing nothing” for 20 minutes. It’s no coincidence that top CEOs and executives do this daily too.
#3 Move – Even If It’s Not Exercise
Stop chronic pain, improve mobility, and enhance your quality of life.
Are you familiar with frozen shoulder syndrome?
Basically it’s where, typically someone over 50 literally can’t raise their arms over their head. At all. It’s kinda weird.
In any case, this is pretty much ONLY seen in people over 50 because of… inactivity! You’ll never see it happen in a little kid who is waving his or her hands around, climbing trees, rolling under logs, and playing around outside.
In other words, motion begets motion. The best way to maintain mobility as we get older is to simply DO more things that require mobility.
Think about your daily schedule right now – does it involve much variety?
Unless you’re putting something into a cabinet after dinner, how often do you raise your arms above your head? Probably not that much. Chances are, 99% of your day is spent in a 2×2 box in front of a computer screen, doing something right in front of you, or driving.
But motion, regardless of whether or not it’s exercise, is really important to prevent and stopping chronic pain.
Your 20 minute habit for today: Crawl under the table with your kids. Run around with your dog and jump over fallen trees. Lay on your back, climb on monkey bars, see how far you can turn your head around, and just engage yourself in activities and forms of motion you aren’t used to. Remember – motion begets motion – the more active you are, the easier it is to stay active as we age.
#4 Find Flow
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi spent his entire life trying to answer this one question, “What makes people feel like they’re living a life worth living? What make people fulfilled at the end of their (ideally) long lives?
The answer, which he found after nearly 30+ years of study, was simple: Flow.
It was easy: People that were in Flow more often were happier, more fulfilled, and more content at the end of the day.
And obviously, people that are happier are often much healthier too!
Doc. C gave some very specific prescriptions for finding flow, so make sure to read the article I like to below.
Your 20 minute habit for today: Read this article, and then do at least one activity that puts you in flow. That could be as simple as reading a book, walking your dog, having a life-talk with a friend, or doing some kind of physical hobby that gets you super focused and lets time evaporate.
#5 Drop The Refined Carbs
I often have my students and my clients think about the 80/20 rule: the fact that the majority of your results come from just a few things (20% of your efforts).
And that most important aspect that gives the most results is what you eat.
However – we can break this down even more, a lot more.
So what aspects of your food account for 80% of the results?
This one’s easy:
Removing white, refined carbs.
There are dozens of reasons I recommend removing them, but here are the biggies:
- They don’t keep you as full as long, and result in over-eating
- They cause rapid blood sugar crashes
- They can cause or worsen cravings
- They’re strongly linked to virtually every major disease (source)
Your 20 minute habit for today: Remove the white, refined carbs (white bread, white pasta, bagels, even white rice if you can afford to), and replace them with other things like quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, or complex carbs. I have seen this one tactic alone result in 5, 20, 50 or hundreds of pounds lost.
#6 Have a Nightly Checklist
Super simple: studies have repeatedly shown (and you already know) that people who actually get FEEDBACK on their goals (in other words, accountability) are 2 or 3x more likely to succeed.
I talked lots about this here in this video: 5 principles that separate successful “maintainers” versus people that lose weight and gain it back.
This exercise is ultra simple:
Pick a new health habit that you’re trying to cultivate.
And then put up a calendar next to your bed or your desk.
Every single time, before you go to bed, you either put a check mark or you put nothing. So let’s say your habit is eating 1 serving of vegetables each day.
Monday, you did it. Check!
Tuesday, you did it. Check!
Wednesday, you didn’t. Nope.
Thursday, you didn’t. Nope.
Here’s how the magic works: Every check mark that you have, you’re going to want to maintain and keep going. It’s really that simple. This is quite possibly one of the easiest health motivation hacks to keep yourself focused.
Your 20 minute habit for today: Set up a calendar near your bed, and put your first check mark down. Figure out what habit you’re trying to cultivate, and then start putting check marks or nothing each day.
#7 Learn The REAL Secret to Success.
Everywhere you go, people are looking for “that one secret to success.”
Unfortunately, people often think it’s a new diet.
Well, (clearly), that’s not true. The average dieter has tried 3,4, 5 diets and is often no closer to his or her goal.
Because succeeding at losing weight or improving your health is all about… your habits! Your lifestyle.
Aka, the hundreds of tiny actions you take each and every day.
Eating out, or cooking.
Eating sweets, or choosing fruit.
Sleeping 5 hours or sleeping 7.5 hours.
The secret to success is this: SIMPLE habits, done daily, consistently. That’s why the Dream Body: Anti-Diet program is so effective – it emphasizes this no-diet-fad approach.
In other words, the people that are the most successful are doing the things you already KNOW you should be doing… but aren’t doing. And they do them every day. Simple as that.
There are two books I highly recommend you read:
#2 The Slight Edge
Read these two books.
Your 20 minute habit: Take some time to do something that is so absurdly simple… that you could easily not do it. Example: taking a 10 minute walk. Example: meditating right now for 5 minutes. Example: cooking dinner at home… just one day a week. What’s simple to do, is also simple not to do. This is also the secret to success :-).
#8 Eat More Plants
It’s no secret that the longest-lived people in the world all follow a heavily plant-based diet. That’s not necessarily saying that they’re vegetarian – but they eat a LOT of plants, often, a lot more than you or I.
Here’s why I suggest to all of my clients and students to begin eating more plants:
- You’ll get sick a lot less often
- Health conditions will magically disappear (acid reflux, GI conditions, & others)
- You’ll feel more full after meals… while eating fewer calories
- It’s like taking a multivitamin… without taking a multivitamin
We know that plants (and to a certain extent fruits) offer much of the cancer and disease fighting nutrients, minerals and vitamins that the body needs. (More plants = lower chronic disease risk).
Your 20 minute habit for today: Simple – whatever you’re eating, keep eating it – just add more plants. Add 1 cup to each meal if you can hack it – but honestly, the more the better.
#9 Do Anti-cubicle Stretches and a Daily Pain Relief Ritual
It’s simple: if you sit at a desk 40 hours a week, chances are you have chronic pain.
The combination of lack of motion, and sitting in the exact same position (often wrong) is simply the path to frustration for most of us.
What I often recommend in my programs is what I call a nightly 7 minute pain relief ritual. So, based on what pain you’re having, you put together a panel of exercises, self massage, and postural tweaks you can do before bed to ensure a great sleep (since sleep is often the worst part of having chronic pain).
Here are some of my best guides:
Neck, Shoulder, Wrist Pain:
Lower Back Pain:
Your 20 minute habit for today: Do a nightly 10 minute pain relief stretch/self massage ritual. You can learn more about this here. Use some of the above guides to figure out what to put in your nightly ritual.
#10 Drop The Stimulants to Manage Your Energy Better
“What? Stop drinking coffee and redbull for BETTER energy?”
Yeah – here’s why.
We’re a fast-paced culture – and we’re super accustomed to popping pills for our problems, googling solutions to our issues, and drinking redbull or six cups of coffee if we can’t concentrate.
But guess what? Those are almost never permanent solutions to your problems.
But especially with energy – here’s the deal. It’s usually a symptom of something else.
- You’re eating too many refined carbs, which lead to blood sugar crashes
- You’re not eating enough plants
- You’re not eating enough protein
- You’re not sleeping enough
- You have a hormonal imbalance
- You are too “on” during the day, and working too much
… See how there can be half a dozen issues occurring?
And by drinking six cups of coffee a day, you can go for YEARS without ever realizing why you’re actually tired or low on energy.
And unfortunately, you can keep ignoring this until the issue becomes a serious medical issue.
Your 20 minute habit for today: Avoid stimulants just for one day, and figure out how to manage your energy better. Do you need to sleep more? Eat more protein and vegetables? Are you working too much and doing too much in life? Are you eating too many refined carbs like white flour, bread, and bagels?
What About You?
What else would you add to this list?
Tell me below !
Also, you can learn all of my biggest wins for pain relief and weight loss here in this free guide.